A Few Thoughts on Borders

Good afternoon! Sometimes, we tend to classify genealogical research strictly by country. “Dutch Research.” “German Research.” “Swiss Research.” The reality, in the modern era and certainly in our ancestor’s past, can be far more nuanced. Our ancestors often had close cultural connections to their neighbors, in many cases, “borders” were not as hard as they are now. These connections often continue to the current day. A good example is in Grafschaft Bentheim, which today is in the German state of Lower Saxony. Protruding out into Dutch territory – the provinces of Overijssel and Drenthe – it historically was part of the Electorate/Kingdom of Hanover. Yet culturally, it had a strong Reformed tradition religiously and its inhabitants spoke Plattdeutsch dialects. This is similar to the neighboring Netherlands (indeed, dialects of Plattdeutsch were/are spoken alongside Dutch in the northeastern provinces of the Netherlands). Consequently, it is not uncommon to find intermarriage between Bentheimers and individuals of Dutch extraction among immigrant communities in the U.S. Thus, the savvy researcher must be aware of these nuances and be prepared to venture beyond the modern-day boundaries. In this way, knowledge of Dutch research principles can be helpful to those seeking their German ancestors; the opposite is also true. A great resource, based in Holland, Michigan, for those researching ancestors from Grafschaft Bentheim is the Bentheimers International Society: https://bentheimheritage.com/. Happy hunting!

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